Armand Gibbons and the low-slung contraption under him draw a few double-takes from joggers as they pass by him on the trail in Memorial Park. The looks are not unusual, he says. “These bikes are what’s unusual.”
Indeed. Gibbons has been riding a recumbent bicycle around Omaha for 30 years. During that time, he’s only known a few dozen others who owned them. On his first RAGBRAI bike ride across Iowa, he was one of 12 recumbent riders in a field of 11,000 bikers. In Nebraska’s own statewide ride, BRAN, he was the only recumbent rider in the whole field.
Absolutely crazy, he argues. Because a well-built, well-equipped recumbent like his Rans V2 is “light years ahead” of normal bikes in terms of comfort.
“I always had pain on upright bikes,” he says. “Other guys said the pain was just part of riding. Well, honestly, it isn’t. It’s crazy that more people don’t ride these babies.”
Gibbons is the godfather of the Omaha recumbent bike culture—to the extent such a thing exists. He knows of about 30 other riders. Every month, he maps out a ride for his loose association of riders, the County Cruisers. About a dozen of “the hardcores” join in for those rides.
Gibbons, 70, is retired, but, from the mid-1980s to 2005, he may have been the only Omahan to regularly ride a recumbent bike to work. For about 20 years, he often road the 13 miles back and forth to Offutt Air Force Base from his home in Dundee.
So, he was a rarity. And, he always has been, he says.
“Recumbents got a little bit popular for awhile, but then they faded again,” he says. “I honestly don’t understand it. If people would just try them, they’d be hooked for life.”